Chapter 15:17-35 (ESV) - I will show you; hear me,
and what I have seen I will declare
(what wise men have told,
without hiding it from their fathers,
to whom alone the land was given,
and no stranger passed among them).
The wicked man writhes in pain all his days,
through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless.
Dreadful sounds are in his ears;
in prosperity the destroyer will come upon him.
He does not believe that he will return out of darkness,
and he is marked for the sword.
He wanders abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’
He knows that a day of darkness is ready at his hand;
distress and anguish terrify him;
they prevail against him, like a king ready for battle.
Because he has stretched out his hand against God
and defies the Almighty,
running stubbornly against him
with a thickly bossed shield;
because he has covered his face with his fat
and gathered fat upon his waist
and has lived in desolate cities,
in houses that none should inhabit,
which were ready to become heaps of ruins;
he will not be rich, and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions spread over the earth;
he will not depart from darkness;
the flame will dry up his shoots,
and by the breath of his mouth he will depart.
Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself,
for emptiness will be his payment.
It will be paid in full before his time,
and his branch will not be green.
He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine,
and cast off his blossom like the olive tree.
For the company of the godless is barren,
and fire consumes the tents of bribery.
They conceive trouble and give birth to evil,
and their womb prepares deceit.
Question to consider: How does Eliphaz reveal his own self-righteous attitude n his judgment of Job?
In today’s passage, Eliphaz professed wisdom he claimed was handed down by his forefathers and should be evident to all: the wicked man receives nothing but pain from the destroyer. He believed that the wicked man walked in hopelessness because all that awaited him was judgment and darkness. Since Job appeared to be on the brink of despair in the midst of great personal calamity, Eliphaz could only conclude that he fit the description of a wicked man. Therefore, it was up to Job to repent of this wickedness so he could go back to being blessed.
To Eliphaz, the fact that Job continued to double-down on his claims of innocence only made him more deserving of judgment. He declared that Job’s self-deception would result in a reward of emptiness and desolation. The idea that his branch would not be green was a way of saying that no life would come from him. While Job wondered whether there could be life after death like a green shoot growing from the stump of a tree, Eliphaz emphasized that it would not be the case for him.
This kind of fatalism is still pretty common among people today. When someone who is unpopular in society experiences tragedy, people will chalk it up to karma. This term is based in the Hindu belief that our future lives are determined by our intentions and actions in this one, but it has been simplified to mean that “bad people deserve bad things to happen to them”. Islam also adheres to a determinism that lets a wealthy man justify his lavish lifestyle as a blessing from Allah while allowing the poor to suffer as punishment by Allah for some assumed wickedness.
All of this is a form of self-righteousness whereby people convince themselves they deserve their good fortune while others deserve their calamities. Just as Eliphaz was wrong to shame Job for his misfortune so we would be wrong to go the opposite way and shame the fortunate (unless it was gained in a sinful way). It is also wrong to empower a ruling authority to take from one group of people and give to another in an attempt to balance the scales. The answer is for people to approach life with a spirit of gratitude and to nurture an attitude of generosity and empathy toward our neighbor. These things are a byproduct of walking with the Spirit of God and loving others in the way Christ has commanded us.
Dear heavenly father, help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ so that we may love our neighbor as Christ has loved us. Thank You for blessing us with life and salvation. Help us to be a good steward of the time and possessions You have given us while we serve You in this life. Amen.